Sunday, May 14, 2006

INB 5/14/06: Day Laborers End Trek; Appeals Court Frees Detainee

Immigration News Briefs
Vol. 9, No. 18 - May 14, 2006

1. Day Laborers End Trek
2. Day Laborers Win Court Victory
3. Homebuilder Contractors Raided
4. Midwest Restaurants Raided
5. Arrests at Florida Air Base
6. More Raids, Communities Respond
7. Appeals Court Frees Detainee

Immigration News Briefs is a weekly supplement to Weekly News Update on the Americas, published by Nicaragua Solidarity Network, 339 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012; tel 212-674-9499; INB is also distributed free via email; contact to subscribe or unsubscribe. You may reprint or distribute items from INB, but please credit us and tell people how to subscribe. Immigration News Briefs is posted at


A group of 12 day laborers marked the end of their 3,000-mile relay run across the country on May 5 with a press conference at New York's City Hall, then ended a full day of events with a stop at a day laborer job center in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, and a spiritual ceremony at Coney Island beach. The "Day Laborers Run for Peace, Justice and Dignity" began on Mar. 4 in Santa Monica, California; it was sponsored by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) to bring a message of solidarity to the estimated 117,000 day laborers in the US, and to support calls for the legalization of undocumented immigrants. At day labor sites along the route, the 12 runners were greeted by other day laborers who ran segments of the relay, carrying a sacred Macehualli staff (Macehualli, in the Nahuatl language of indigenous Mexico, means one who builds a community). [Diario Hoy (NY) 5/6/06; Latin American Workers Project Press Release 5/5/06]

In other news, some 3,000 people--including many day laborers--marched in Hempstead, Long Island, on May 1 as part of a national day of action for immigrant rights [see INB 5/7/06]. [Newsday (NY) 5/8/06]


On May 1, US District Judge Consuelo Marshall in Los Angeles ruled that the southern California city of Redondo Beach cannot arrest day laborers for standing on sidewalks. Marshall found the ordinance used to justify the arrests--which bars people from standing on public streets, sidewalks and curbs while soliciting work from passing motor vehicles--to be overly broad and unconstitutional. Judge Marshall had issued a temporary injunction on Dec. 13, 2004 [see INB 12/25/04]. "This is an important, full vindication for day laborers who seek only the right to fill jobs that willing employers are offering," said San Francisco-based attorney Robert Rubin, who represented the workers. City Attorney Mike Webb said on May 2 that he was frustrated by the decision and planned to appeal, unless directed otherwise by the mayor or City Council. [Los Angeles Times 5/3/06]


On May 9, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrested 76 undocumented construction workers in the Kentucky towns of Hebron, Union and Florence. The workers were laboring as subcontractors for Fischer Homes, part of the Fischer Group based in Crestview Hills, Kentucky. ICE also arrested Fischer Homes supervisors Timothy Copsy, Doug Witt, William Allison and Bill Ring; all four posted bond and were released after being charged in US District Court in Covington, Kentucky, with one federal count each of "harboring illegal aliens for commercial advantage or private financial gain." [ICE News Release 5/9/06; AP 5/9/06] The workers may face federal misdemeanor charges, and others could face administrative immigration violations, said ICE spokesperson Dean Boyd.

According to the complaint filed by the US Attorney's Office, authorities visited several Fischer home sites in January claiming to be searching for a Hispanic male wanted in Texas for murder. When officials interviewed workers on the site, many admitted to being in the country illegally. The complaint alleges the managers at each of the sites knew they were using undocumented workers. The investigation is ongoing, Boyd said. [AP 5/9/06]


On May 10, ICE agents executed a sealed federal search warrant and arrested nine employees of Julio's Mexican Restaurant in St. Joseph, Missouri in a raid during lunch hour rush. ICE agents loaded the nine arrested workers into a van at the back of the restaurant while deputies from the Buchanan County Sheriff's Department controlled the front door. [KQTV (St. Joseph) 5/10/06; ICE News Release 5/11/06] Later on May 10, ICE arrested the restaurant's co-owner, Julio Zapala-Urbina, on criminal charges of knowingly hiring illegal aliens to work at his restaurants.

ICE had executed a sealed federal search warrant and arrested 12 employees on Apr. 27 at another Julio's Mexican Restaurant co-owned by Zapala-Urbina in Cedar Falls, Iowa. ICE also arrested co-owner Juan Lopez-Angel, who they said was living in the US illegally, and seized business paperwork, tax forms, a laptop computer, business bank account information and $17,000 cash. The company's bank account was also seized.

The investigation began Mar. 23 after ICE was notified of a man whose Social Security number was discovered to be invalid, following his application to reside in a Cedar Falls mobile home village. The man indicated that he worked at Julio's restaurant. ICE agents later arrested two other immigrants who were involved in a traffic accident in Benton County, Iowa. They both also indicated that they worked at Julio's restaurant. Further investigation revealed that none of these employees had been required to complete any paperwork or provide any documentation in order to work at the restaurant.

"Businesses who knowingly employ illegal aliens are on notice that they will be criminally prosecuted," said Pete Baird, assistant special agent-in-charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Kansas City. Assistant US Attorney Peter Deegan, Northern District of Iowa, is prosecuting this case. [ICE News Release 5/11/06]


During the week of May 1, ICE agents arrested three undocumented Mexican workers at Tyndall Air Force Base in Panama City, Florida, in response to a call from military personnel working at the base's main gate. The three men were employed by a sub-contractor to do scaffolding work at the base. Two of them were booked on administrative immigration violations and were served with notices to appear before an immigration judge. The other had a fraudulent resident alien card with him; his case was handed over to the US Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Florida for criminal prosecution. [ICE 5/5/06]


Early on May 1, ICE agents arrested 36 women and 30 men at 15 locations in Union City, West New York and New York City. The raids came just hours after New Jersey State Police pulled over two vehicles carrying at least 10 Mexican women who worked in brothels in the Washington, DC area, said Kyle Hutchins, special agent in charge of the Newark ICE office. ICE believes some of the women may have been trafficked. All but two of those arrested were being held on immigration charges for being in the US illegally, Hutchins said. [AP 5/2/06]

On May 5, about 30 immigrant rights activists rallied in front of the federal immigration building in Miami to protest ongoing raids and mass deportations in South Florida. Immigration authorities deny carrying out "random sweeps" but said they have stepped up arrests of immigrants with prior deportation orders. The protest was led by Honduran Unity leader Jose Lagos, who charged that federal immigration authorities had deported at least six planeloads of immigrants from Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala. ICE spokesperson Jamie Zuieback said ICE recently dispatched 11 planes with deported Hondurans aboard as part of a new initiative to quickly deport certain Central Americans caught attempting to enter the country illegally. [Miami Herald 5/6/06]

On Apr. 27, ICE agents arrested 14 undocumented immigrants in a 3am raid in Leesburg, Virginia. "We responded to a request by the Loudoun County Police Department [and] encountered 14 illegal aliens in a van," said ICE spokesperson Ernestine Fobbs. "We are looking into the possibilities of [it being related] to smuggling. It's an ongoing investigation."

The raid, and word of others like it, sparked panic among local immigrants, advocates said at an Apr. 28 press conference at the Foundry United Methodist Church in northwest Washington, DC. "[We] formally demand that President [George W.] Bush and the Department of Homeland Security put a moratorium on these raids until comprehensive immigration reform has been reached [in the Senate]," said National Capital Immigrant Coalition (NCIC) president Jaime Contreras. "If they don't stop, we will be planning major activities at their offices and remind them that we are not intimidated in [any] shape or form... and we will be doing civil disobedience if necessary," he said. [Washington Times 4/29/06]

In a May 1 press release, the Philadelphia-based American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) called on the US government "to immediately stop all raids or the detention of immigrant workers employed at companies, businesses, factories and other job sites throughout the country." [AFSC 5/1/06]

On May 10, two immigrant mothers who are fighting deportation began a hunger strike at Plaza Tenochtitlan in Chicago to demand that Bush call a moratorium on "raids, deportations and separations of families" until Congress comes to a resolution on immigration. Elvira Arellano was working at O'Hare airport when she was arrested in an ICE raid in December 2002 [see INB 12/13/02]; she then joined with other immigrants facing deportation to found Familia Latina Unida (United Latino Family) and is now the group's president. The other hunger striker is Flor Crisostomo, who was one of nearly 1,200 employees of the IFCO Systems pallet company arrested in a nationwide ICE sweep last Apr. 19 [see INB 4/22/06]. As of May 13, the hunger strike had been joined by two more activists. The hunger strikers plan to travel to Washington, DC on May 15 to press legislators for legalization and a moratorium on raids. [Press Bulletin 5/13/06 from La Familia Latina Unida, Centro Sin Fronteras and Chicago IFCO 26, forwarded by National Immigrant Solidarity Network]


In a unanimous ruling on Mar. 17, ten days after hearing arguments in the case, a three-judge panel of the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the release of Sri Lankan asylum seeker Ahilan Nadarajah, saying his lengthy detention violated the Supreme Court's June 2001 Zadvydas v. Davis ruling barring indefinite detention. [AP 3/19/06; Los Angeles Times 4/7/06] After more than four years in detention, Nadarajah was freed on Mar. 21.

Nadarajah left Sri Lanka in September 2001 after being tortured by the Sri Lankan army, who accused him of belonging to the Tamil Tigers, designated a terrorist group by the US State Department. He planned to go to Toronto, but was arrested on Oct. 27, 2001, at the San Ysidro, California border post while trying to enter the US from Mexico using false documents. A US immigration judge granted him political asylum, and that decision was upheld on appeal, but the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) kept him detained and sought to deport him, claiming he was a national security threat, based on information from a secret informant for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

The government argued Nadarajah's detention was not indefinite because Attorney General Alberto Gonzales would review his case at some point. However, "no one can satisfactorily assure us as to when that day will arrive," the appeals court ruled, calling the government's arguments "patently absurd," "implausible" and "baffling." Nadarajah is free on $20,000 bond; he must wear an electronic monitoring device on his ankle and be home by 5 pm every day while he waits for Gonzales to review his asylum case.

According to Nadarajah's lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in Los Angeles, another longtime detainee from Sri Lanka was released on Mar. 27 in what they believe was fallout from Nadarajah's case. Saluja Thangaraja had also been granted asylum by an immigration judge, but the US government kept her detained near San Diego for nearly five years. [LAT 4/7/06]


Contributions toward Immigration News Briefs are gladly accepted: they should be made payable and sent to Nicaragua Solidarity Network, 339 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012. (Tax-deductible contributions of $50 or more may be made payable to the A.J. Muste Memorial Institute and earmarked for "NSN".)

No comments: